Veteran Sega developer Yuji Naka has been sentenced to two years in prison.
According to The Gamer, Naka was also sentenced to fines of ¥2.5 million and ¥170 million. His lawyers will try to at least get those fines lowered.
This all ties in, strangely enough, to Balan Wonderworld, the game for which Yuji Naka briefly joined Square Enix. Before he left the company, Naka engaged in suspicious financial activity, for which he was arrested twice.
His first arrest last November was for investing stocks in mobile developer Aiming. Naka learned that the studio would be working on a new mobile game called Dragon Quest Tact.
The second arrest came a month after. This time, Naka had acquired stocks in mobile developer Ateam. Naka gained knowledge that Ateam would be developing a mobile game called Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier.
In both cases, Naka purchased stock in both companies, with the intent to sell them immediately after those respective games were announced. This would give him a guaranteed return on investment, but of course, amounts to insider trading.
Naka received this sentence in his third trial. The trial is for both incidents combined, and the fact that he violated Japan’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.
Damningly enough, Naka gave this confession when he pled guilty to these charges:
“There is no doubt that I knew the facts about the game before it was made public and bought the stock.”
It’s a strange turn of events for one of the most important game developers in video game history. Some fans may overstate his role as co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, but his career is bigger than even just that franchise.
Having started his career with Girl’s Garden on the SG-1000, Naka proved to be a master coder to rival Satoru Iwata and Square Enix’s Naser Gebelli. Naka unlocked the lesser known Sega Master System’s true potential, creating ports of games like Space Harrier and Outrun that was not possible on Nintendo’s Famicom. He developed the pseudo 3D dungeon system for the first Phantasy Star, and even built a 3D Famicom emulator that the Sega Master System could run.
He was lead programmer on the first Sonic the Hedgehog, and oversaw Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic and Knuckles, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Other Sega games he worked on as developer or manager include Nights Into Dreams, Chu Chu Rocket, and Phantasy Star Online. After Sega, he founded Prope and found some success with Rodea the Sky Soldier.
I would be remiss not to point out that stories also abound about Naka’s bad behavior as a manager at Sega, particularly the friction between him and Sega of America.
In spite of this, the last thing we want to hear of a Japanese gaming legend is that they are about to spend time in prison, especially this late in his life. It’s truly a sad turn of events for someone who once made our childhoods.